South Dakota House approves teacher salary bill

February 21, 2024

PIERRE, S.D.–South Dakota House members sent a message to school boards Tuesday that when the legislature appropriates money to increase teacher salaries, they want it used for that purpose.

The House passed House Bill 1048 on a vote of 58 to 9.

The House’s sponsor, Republican Representative Mike Stevens from Yankton, a former school board member, explained the bill sets the minimum teacher salary at $45,000. Total compensation would go up yearly based on the same percentage the legislature sets.

This year, that would be 4%.

Stevens says 75% of South Dakota schools currently meet the benchmark. Thirty-seven schools do not. Of the 37 schools, 14 are less than $1,000 under the benchmark.

He added that the benchmark does not require immediate action, as the bill would require districts to hit the $45,000 mark starting July 1, 2026.

Stevens and other proponents say despite a tax increase in 2016 to fund teacher salaries, the state’s teachers rank between 48th and 50th worst paid in the nation.

Republican Representative Kevin Jensen from Canton, also a former school board member, opposed the bill. He said he supported teachers, but several districts in the state are seeing declining enrollments, thus making budgeting difficult. Jensen added that school administrators he’s talked to across the state oppose the bill.

Legislators testified that not only some small districts were seeing enrollment declines but also large districts like Aberdeen and Rapid City.

Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch from Florence said the state is short about 300 teachers and would rather not see new teachers moving to surrounding states for better pay.

“Teachers are not getting the trickle-down effect that we told them would happen,” Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen from Sioux Falls said.

The debate lasted for nearly 45 minutes.

The bill now heads to a Senate committee.